You cheated me. You stole my destiny.

There is a scene in Forrest Gump where Lt. Dan hauls Forrest to the floor of the military hospital and lashed out at him for saving his life. His destiny, he yelled through clenched teeth, was to die in battle like his ancestors before him. He was angry and bitter that had been taken away from him, even though he had been given his life in exchange.

We see this facet of the human condition all around us.

Mitch McConnell was supposed to serve in a government that was stately and hallowed, where learned white men exchanged discourse of higher ideals. Instead, he found himself in a Congress where he perceived the shoe-shine boy and coat check girl were in charge. And that made him a bitter, frustrated old man.

The same could be said about the recent spontaneous student riots when Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State. The media prattled on about how the students were showing support for JoePa. No, they weren’t. They were scared, bitter Lt. Dans, lashing out at any ol’ Forrest, screaming “you stole my destiny.” They knew in their hearts they were not ever, ever going to be a part of that great football legacy of Penn State. It was stolen from them.

To understand Occupy Wall Street is to understand this fundamental facet of the human condition. An entire generation (or class, or 99%) of Americans have become overwhelmed by the fear of losing the destiny that they were promised. The same is also true of the Tea Party.

The media spins stories around facts. They have to. They need to be able to verify human behavior — especially perceptibly irrational behavior — around a series of facts. This caused that, that caused this other thing, etc. Journalism isn’t about waxing philosophically about the inner workings of the human mind and heart.

And so we end up having a discourse around the talking points that are on the surface, those that we were told were the causal elements of an event instead of what is really going on.

What is really going on is basic human fear. The real cause is nothing you can prove, but deep in our hearts, we know it to be true.

Nobody stole our destiny. The truth is our destiny is to create our own world, to figure out how to grow legs when the world cuts us off at the knees. While our initial reaction is to lash out at the world, to get drunk on New Year’s Eve and rail against God and his creation, eventually we need to figure out the answer to the fundamental question Lt. Dan asked of himself in that military hospital; “What am I gonna do now?”

Some of us will figure it out, find peace and go get some new legs. Others will simply run out of time. Most will remain angry, frustrated and bitter.

What are you gonna do?

14 Replies to “You cheated me. You stole my destiny.”

  1. the “what am I going to do now sensation” – as long as you can leave out the “I’m in ruins” part is one of the traits that most people associate as a defining trait of Americans. At least it used to be.

    A person attitude does more than just set the mood, it’s what causes some people to get up and move forward while others stay put and watch.

  2. you stole my destiny – thank you for the reminder, it’s sometimes hard to stay on track when the going is extremely tough. I choose to grow some new legs!

  3. Such a great scene from the movie.

    Lt. Dan got a chance to hash it out with God too. What Dan did was better praying than I hear from myself most of the time.

    I need to pray what I am thinking not what I think God wants to hear.

    On the subject of destiny. I really only have myself to blame for my own loss of destiny. That and the fact I am changing it all the time. Kind of hard to achieve something if you are constantly starting over.

  4. Oh, James there is so much in that film I don’t even know where to begin! Most people who see the movie see an implausible and entertaining story about a simple man. That is ok.

    I have to disagree with you about Lt. Dan hashing it out with God. By design, God is almost not present in Forrest Gump if only to make a point about our own ability to handle our own problems without appealing to a higher power. Forrest was able to achieve things because he got out of his own way, or rather, almost never got in his way, unlike Lt. Dan and Jenny. When each found peace, it was because they quit fighting who they felt others expected them to be and became themselves. I think on some level, the film overtly states: When you STOP when you find God, you’ve only come halfway.

    If you let the the scene referenced above play out, Lt. Dan also asks rhetorically “who am I?” to which Forrest answers, “you’re Lt. Dan.” Had Lt. Dan listened to Forrest then, he would not have had to continue looking for his destiny. Our destiny is to be ourselves, not what others expect of us. For some — like Jenny — it takes a lifetime and they only discover who they are at the very end. For others — like Lt. Dan — it takes a tragedy. Still others — like Forrest — they have always known.

    There is a scene when Forrest finds Lt. Dan again in New York bar over New Year’s, when one of the “ladies” remarks wistfully that she likes when a new year turns as it gives people another chance. “Everyone deserves another chance,” she says. Every day, every year is one notch closer to that decision to grow new legs, but is also one day more that shapes who we are.

    You are never starting over because you are James Dibben and always will be. Who you were yesterday contributes to who you are today and will shape who you are tomorrow, legs or no legs. We never start over, we don’t get second chances.. we are always who we are. The only thing you need to “achieve” is a decision on what your new legs will be.

  5. I would argue that Lt. Dan was the only person in the movie to have a spriritual experience. He was mad at God and took it out on Forrest, at first. Eventually he went to God with his anger and self loathing.

    Lt. Dan found salvation in God.
    Forrest found it in himself.
    Jenny found it in Forrest.

  6. Hmmm You are going to have to support a claim of salvation with textual evidence. I saw Forrest Gump as a naturalism film where the Universe is impartial and indifferent. God is only a bit player throughout, more of a cultural sounding board than a central theme.

  7. Forrest: “You know what I think? I think Lt. Dan found God that day.”

    I probably can’t call it salvation. Maybe substitute the word peace.

    I don’t think God was a central theme either. Still, a central character had a change in perspective from an encounter (real or perceived) with God.

  8. Got to be careful about cherry picking lines in a work without taking into account the context of the work. “God” to Forrest had a meaning only within the context that Lt. Dan understood God and told Forrest what God was. The same with Forrest’s relationship with his mother and her understanding of God. Forrest’s understanding of the concept of “God” was as complex as a parrot’s understanding of language.

  9. Oh I see. Since Forrest is a simple man he can’t possible understand a concept as complex as God.

    Maybe Forrest understands God better than all the rest of us. Maybe God is simple to understand and we over complicate Him.

  10. Oh I see. Since Forrest is a simple man he can’t possible understand a concept as complex as God. Maybe Forrest understands God better than all the rest of us. Maybe God is simple to understand and we over complicate Him.

    I never said that. Never even implied it. I used a simile to illustrate the comparative nature of Forrest’s understanding of God to a parrot’s understanding of language. My assertion is supported by the text in various places, most notably in the scene when the drill sergeant asked Gump why he assembled the gun so quickly. “Because you told me to.” Gump needed no other explanation to accept the purpose of his actions. The film is riddled with like examples.

    You can’t project anything onto a character that is not evidenced in the text without committing a biographical or cultural fallacy.

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